Philia, Part 5

Read Part 1 here.

Read Part 2 here.

Read Part 3 here.

Read Part 4 here.

Caring for an infant on a deep-range ship not designed for families was more of a pain than Mary had previously considered. There were no toys, no clothes, no baby furniture. In the first days Mary struggled again with anger at what had been done to her; now she had to find some way to love a child without any way to care for it.

The crew provided.

Tanya in hydroponics proved that gardening was not her only skill. She’d gathered clothing from crew members and designed and created both clothing for Philia as well as diapers.

Ben and Trent had gotten together and took two chairs out of the lounge to create a crib. It wasn’t pretty, but it was functional.

Jephthah, one of the engineers, had found a way to create a pacifier out of flexible helium bulbs – once Paul had cleared it as allowable for the child to chew on.

The crew came together around Philia. They coddled her, held her, loved her. In the extra downtime between jumps, they took turns caring for her. Most, anyway. Trent was conspicuous in his absence from any activity around the child. Avi didn’t much care for the child, but most simply wrote that off as personal preference. And Paul, who had nearly daily contact monitoring Philia, would not be found near her or the captain unless he was on the job.

A month old, and Philia was a healthy, happy child. She always wanted to be held, making night difficult for Mary, but in general times were good. The jumping didn’t seem to be affecting the baby as much as anyone had thought; perhaps the longer rest times were having their desired effect.

James delighted in the child. During the worship services he presided over, he smiled at every sound Philia made. Did she sometimes cry louder than he preached? Yes, but even that was a joy. He could say that, not having to stay up with her every night.

Philia had been born the first Sunday of Advent. As the people of the ship helped prepare and set up for the child, James reflected on the preparation necessary for the Christ-child.

And then, all too soon, it was Christmas. The one time nearly everyone on the ship actually came to James’ little services. Usually it was just five, perhaps six who came to hear God’s Word and worship together. The rest stayed away from the lounge on Sunday mornings.

Ah, but Christmas!

James set the cross on the table that served as his altar. Everything had at least two purposes on the ship. The lounge itself served as a recreation facility. The tables could be used as structural supports in case of emergency. Even the Bibles were on tablets that could load any text or even be used as control panels in a pinch.

But not the cross. The cross was only a cross.  The rough wooden object served only to direct the thoughts during worship. Tonight, and so often since the attack, it was what James needed. What they all needed.

Paul entered the lounge. He’d not been to worship since the attack. He saw Mary and Philia talking with Heather. He turned around to leave.

James caught him. “Paul. Come on in.”

The doctor glanced at the pastor, at the captain, and walked away.

James watched after him only a moment. Yes, some would walk away from the forgiveness they longed for. Others, though. James would tend whatever flock he had.

He walked to the front of the lounge, near the altar, and began to speak. “Some people believe they can become gods if they work hard enough, if they can use science or distraction to control their own fate, if they can just increase their skills enough. We’ve seen that we’re not gods. This year we’ve suffered so much. There is no way we could be gods. We’d never choose what’s happened if we were.

“But that’s the beauty of Christmas. We don’t have to become gods. God became human. In all our distresses, he, too, was distressed. He chose to become one of us, to bear our infirmities, and the punishment that was ours was put upon him.

“In the last month, we’ve seen the joy a child can bring. We’ve also seen how helpless that child is. How much she depends on us. On all of us, doing our jobs, to the best of our abilities. Can you imagine being that helpless? Now imagine God becoming that helpless. That was Jesus. He became helpless… for us.

“Tonight, before we start singing our favorite songs, I’d like to read to you a little bit from the book that the apostle John wrote. He speaks about the Word. That Word is a name for Jesus. Words are how we get to know each other. Without words of one kind or another, spoken or signed or written, we would never be able to know what another person was thinking. Jesus is God’s Word. Jesus is how God expressed his thoughts to us. Listen as God speaks to you.”

James read from the tablet in his hand, “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father’s side, has made him known.”

In Mary’s arms, Philia cooed.

Read Part 6 here.

Read Part 7 here.

Read Part 8 here.


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